Ford Focus ST Edition review: £36k hot hatch with very nerdy suspension 2022 review

What Edition Ford Focus ST? First edition? Black Edition? Limited edition?

More than the last issue, really. As any keen internet student will notice, Ford has just revealed a facelift and tweak for the Focus family hatchback. They include a new, less scary nose with a badge in the middle of the grille, a wider touchscreen inside, and the death of the diesel-fueled ST version.

When it comes to Fast Focus, it’s now a petrol-only zone. An incredible 276 horses and 310 torque, thanks to the somewhat warbly 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder.

But this… isn’t the new Focus ST?

Right. Still has a scary face, still has a small touch screen. This is the last special version of the Focus to come out.

Oddly though, it does have some of the bits you can expect in a new one. A digital instrument display embellished with multiple gauges and graphic animations, for one thing. And a new type of button to adjust the mirror. I myself don’t think there’s anything wrong with the old one.

Unless you’re going to spend more time telling me about the mirror button, there’d better be something else of interest.

Ready. Lightweight wheels that mimic the look of the optional carbon rims worn by the Ford GT and Shelby Mustang GT500 are fitted as standard, and save a truly worrisome 10kg of weight per wheel. They’re aluminum, so we can only assume standard ST rims use lead and uranium.

Anyway, if you know something about handling and cornering and whatnot, you’ll know that lighter wheels are a really good thing. They are easier to accelerate and brake, do less damage to steering when turning, and allow the suspension to be rearranged to do a better job of keeping the body under control and well supported.

So, Ford went to town with the ST Edition suspension.

What have they done?

Throw everything in the trash, and start again.

Seriously? What’s wrong with that?

Like hot hatch every day, not much. The standard ST gets adaptive damping as standard, which goes from luxurious comfort in Slippery and Normal modes to the tight Sport settings and the downright stiff Track mode.

This is actually one of the best parts about the new ST – it’s one of the most versatile, everyday-use hot hatches you can buy. It’s a lot less yobbish – more Golf GTI-ish – than the old ST, but still fun when you want it.

Anyway, forget all that. It’s in the past.

Erm, okay. What do we have in return?

Nerdspension, owned by KW Automotive. They are a British company, which gives us hope that this British B-friendly hot hatch hasn’t forgotten how to handle our local rear track.

You can no longer cycle through suspension settings at the touch of a steering wheel button. Instead, you should stop. Somewhere safe. Jack up the whole car. Remove the light wheels. Stack them neatly. And then set about the reducer itself with your toolkit.

The result of all this inconvenience is that you have more options than the Netflix home screen. There are 12 settings for compression (because the damper absorbs impact) and 16 (yes, sixteen) options for rebound (back stroke when the damper exhales again).

To encourage sharp cornering courage, the entire car now sits 10mm lower than standard (these are also adjustable, front and rear) and stickier tires are fitted.

This is a car for Driving Enthusiasts Right?

Yes, the ST Edition is for the type of person who has an Instagram account dedicated to their car and takes forty-seven photos every time it is washed. The kind of person who uses that photo as the phone’s lock screen wallpaper instead of the other half’s image. Maybe the type of individual that really refers to their Ford Focus ST Edition as their better part.

Continue? TopGear.com is a safe place for everyone from the Driving Aficionado persuasion. And if you take your handling seriously, love track days and dream of unlocking the optimal configuration for the perfect Nürburgring lap, then this – a country mile away – is the Fast Ford for you.

Look, just as much as we love the Fiesta ST, Puma ST and Focus ST, they’re cute, foamy cars. Naughty personalities are built to behave badly, but don’t get you into trouble. The ST edition got a lot more serious. This is the right part of the kit.

Does it feel like a new car?

No – but the difference really adds up. With traction now even stronger than the already tidy boggo ST, 276bhp now feels like a trivial amount. The car could easily have endured more grunts. Maybe the call to Mountune was in order.

At low speeds, you detect there is less ‘give’ in the car. It sacrifices the party part that pretends it’s a normal, unsportsmanlike focus. But you’ll still feel securely gripped in a very supportive seat and still on the side of city life that’s more tolerable than the Honda Civic Type R, or the jaw-dropping Renaultsport Megane RS Trophy.

But like those cars, when you get up to speed, the ST Edition’s trick suspension starts to work. This completes the difficult sections, but keeps you in the loop on what you need to know. It feels better planted than a standard car. More structured. But stay calm and agile – Ford hasn’t sacrificed the ST’s sense of humor in its pursuit of grip.

Of course, if you find it to be too wobbly, you can fiddle with the shock and rotate it. Ford provided a cheat sheet with suggested settings, but since this car doesn’t belong to TopGear.com and Ford neglected to provide a ‘here’s how to reset to standard sheet, dummy’ sheet, we left it.

That… sort of beats the point.

Well, not when it’s in a rather sweet spot for fast walking precision. The real value – the reason to spend extra on the Edition – will lie in a weekend game for owners to tinker with and tinker with before their next outing.

You mentioned money. How much it costs?

This is not a cheap fast Ford. Designer suspension does not grow on trees. So this ST Edition, striking in the new Azure Blue paint with black wings, wheels and mirrors, costs £35,785. And that’s big money – away from the Hyundai i30N type and grappling with premium-badged engines. And the Honda Civic Type R, if you can find a new one.

But you know what? If you’re really into this stuff, and you’re starting to ‘build your own car’, it’s well worth it.

The interior is uninspiring, but much more logical and less distracting than what you’d sit in a Golf or Leon. It will make 37mpg if you are careful. Hi-fi B&O is a banger. In fact, this Edition is full of kits.

So if you want that old new Ford Focus that we almost excused Ford for ignoring calls to build a new Focus RS, here’s a much-loved and talented hot hatch.

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